Whitesburg KY

The Way We Were

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in August 1907
90 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK — The front page of the January 1, 1931 edition of The Mountain Eagle carried the clip art greeting, “Happy New Year 1931.” The paper was in its 24th year of operation at the time.

90 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK — The front page of the January 1, 1931 edition of The Mountain Eagle carried the clip art greeting, “Happy New Year 1931.” The paper was in its 24th year of operation at the time.


Six or more single- and two-horse wagons passed through Letcher County on Tuesday on the way to Stonega, Virginia, where they will tackle 80,000 pounds of freight consigned to J.J. Keller, manager of the bridge work for the Lexington & Eastern Railroad’s expansion from Jackson to Neon.

The Whitesburg Graded School will open for January 2, 1911 for its 20-week spring session. Tuition will be $2 per month. Room and board are available at $8 and $10 per month, payable in advance.

“To say that the year 1910 has been a record-breaker so far as history making is concerned would be true, and yet a majority of our readers may not have thought about it,” Mountain Eagle editor N.M. Webb writes in a year-end editorial. “It’s even a record-breaker so far as Letcher County and the mountains of eastern Kentucky are concerned. When the first day of last January dawned faint streaks of development were occasionally seen …. At that time, we had hopes that the railroad — if built on up to Poor Fork (now known as Cumberland) — would in a few years also thread its way on up into Letcher County and thus bring us nearer in touch with development. Even at that time our most expert dreamer had not had his first dream of a railroad coming up the North Fork of the Kentucky River from Jackson and plunging into the great Elkhorn coal world. From Jackson up the North Fork, almost to the mudpuddle from which this stream springs, a great big and powerful railroad is being hurriedly built. Within a few yards of where we write, a big engine is puffing a pawing away, and out a short distance further are a number of spindles of steel turning and twisting and boring into the solid adamant. … The edict has gone forth. The mountain of eastern Kentucky are to become the central point around which the mightiest and most phenomenal development the South has ever seen is to move.”

W.H. Potter of Craftsville has accepted a settlement of $5,000 in damages from the Lexington & Eastern Railroad. Consequently, no suit will be brought to assess the damages. Meanwhile, the jury in the case of the L&E versus Lewis Brothers Wholesale of Whitesburg awarded $4,000 in damages to the Lewis Brothers. The jury also awarded $8,500 in damages from the L&E to George Hogg.

Millstone is humming with business, as the Bentley Mill is running almost day and night to supply the railroad people with lumber. Prices range from $10 per thousand and up. John Holbrook has just pulled in on Millstone Branch with a new Frick sawmill outfit and is setting up on Pat Bates’s place.

Local wagoners, including Randall Day and Add Miller, had their wagons entered while on their way to Norton, Virginia. While at the head of the Guest River, the wagons were robbed of several dollars worth of hides and furs.

The Riverside Hotel on lower Main Street in Whitesburg will open to the public on or about January 1, 1911.

The town of Whitesburg has grown more in the last 10 years than it grew in the 40 years preceding this time. The fact is, it stood nearly 30 years almost without a single new building being added. It will double by this time next year.

Since there were no fatalities, no accidents, no shootings and woundings, and everybody housed up sober and gentlemanly for Christmas, there is almost no local news this week.


A 28-year-old Whitesburg man died Christmas Eve in a tragic accident in the L&N Railroad tunnel above Whitesburg. Edgar Craft, the well-known son of Mrs. Mattie Craft, left town to walk to the home of his grandfather, Hiram Williams, who lives about a mile above town. For unknown reasons, Edgar decided to walk through the tunnel along the way. While he was passing through, a train came and hit him, killing him almost instantly. It is believed that Edgar was off the railroad track, but was hit in the left shoulder by the passing engine, which in turn threw him into the wall of the tunnel, resulting in fatal head injuries. Edgar was a son of the late Urias Craft, who lost his life in Neon several years ago under mysterious circumstances.

James Blair, 38, was killed in a roof fall December 23 while working in the Carbon Glow mine. He leaves a widow and 10 children, the oldest child being a son of 18. The family lived on Rockhouse.

Two Dickenson County, Virginia men were killed when the truck in which they were riding ran off the road while coming down the Jenkins side of Pine Mountain, across from the rock crushing plant. The two men — Vince Bryant and Garland Davis — were on their way to Jenkins with a truckload of produce to sell when the accident occurred. A passenger they had picked up — Mrs. Fitzhugh Whitt — escaped the wreck with no injuries.


“Christmas passed off as was expected,” writes Mountain Eagle editor N.M. Webb. “So far as heard there were no fights, broils or killings in the county and very little drunkenness. On the night before Christmas there was more or less noise from firecrackers. People in their beds were awakened but there was no destruction or injury done so far as heard.”

Cossie C. Quillen, Letcher County’s blind clerk who has for the past three years remembered all the blind people in Letcher County, again this year gave a small package to help cheer them and make their darkness a little brighter during the Yuletide season.

Dr. J.Y. Harper, who has for the past 10 years been connected with Consolidation Coal Co., has only recently completed a year’s special training in Baltimore in the specialty of eye, nose, ear and throat and will locate in Port Arthur, Texas.

The 1941 Pre-Marital Law is now in effect requiring applicants for marriage license to have had a physical examination not more than 15 days prior to application for license. Letcher County is fortunate since the Jenkins Hospital laboratory is qualified and recognized by the state to make these blood tests at a nominal cost to applicants. (From The Neon News)


That Jenkins is an orderly, well-managed city is thoroughly proven by the splendid record made during the Christmas holidays, the police court and Judge Abbott report. To the enviable record that has just passed into history, it can be said that not a single arrest was made throughout the entire season. Not even for drunkenness.

Dan Baker of Baker Maytag rolled up a mighty fine sales total to carry off first honors in a recent contest that was sponsored for dealers by the Kentucky and West Virginia Power Company of Hazard. Another Kelvinator salesman, H.A. Mammond of Smith Maytag Co., bagged third place in the contest. Baker has been handling Kelvinators for a number of years in his store at Neon. In spite of territorial limitations, he is banking on selling at least 150 Kelvinators in the very near future.

Mother Craft’s in Whitesburg is advertising a spaghetti supper on Wednesday and Saturday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.


The fight against Infantile Paralysis, operating through the March of Dimes campaign, will get underway Sunday. March of Dimes containers, used to collect donations, will be placed in businesses. Fortunately, Letcher County did not have a single case of polio during 1950. In 1949, however, one of the big years for the disease, eight cases were reported in Letcher County and the amount collected that year failed to cover the treatment needed for the eight persons stricken.

Two miners were injured in a slate fall at the Denver Adams truck mine at Blair Branch. Injured were Elvin Caudill, who had minor injuries, and Elmo Gibbs, who received a fractured hip and pelvis.

Rex, S.J. and Carl Jean Jones, three brothers from Detroit, Mich., were arrested after a wild chase by Letcher County deputy sheriffs and Wayland police. The three are charged with committing armed robbery at the Tackett Candy Store at Neon Junction.

Appointed as temporary postmaster for Whitesburg in the absence of William Fred Gibson is Nick Wright. Gibson is away from the post office on military leave. Wright will serve until Gibson is released from the Army.


City officials this week assigned house numbers to houses to be served by city mail delivery and notified residents and owners by mail of the numbers they will have. Houses must have numbers and mailboxes before mail service can begin, Postmaster R.C. Day Jr. said.

Retired members of the United Mine Workers of America will find their monthly pension check $25 smaller beginning in February. The UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund announced this week it had to make the cut because it is not receiving enough in coal royalties to keep up the present level of payments. The cut will affect about 65,000 pensioners, including several hundred in Letcher County. The monthly checks will drop from $100 to $75.

Tom Gish, publisher of The Mountain Eagle, announced sale of the newspaper’s job printing plant to Mr. and Mrs. W.P. Nolan of Hazard and Mayking, former owners of the paper. Gish will continue as owner, editor and publisher of The Mountain Eagle.

“Valley of the Redwoods” and “Al Capone” starring Rod Steiger are playing this week at Isaac’s Alene Theatre in Whitesburg.


Whitesburg lost more than a third of its population from 1960 to 1970. Official 1970 census figures show that Whitesburg now has 1,137 residents. This compares with 1,774 residents in 1960. Part of the decline is attributable to the “de-annexation” of the Pine Mountain Junction area, which was a part of the city when the 1960 census was taken. But the loss of 35.9 percent is the sharpest recorded by any city in the coalfields.

Eighty persons who are waiting for admission to the Golden Years Rest Home at Jenkins may never reside there unless Letcher County residents come up with $22,000 to help in construction of the home. C. Vernon Cooper, chairman of the Kentucky River Development District Board of Directors, says he is “most reluctant” to allot more money to the project. The development district has already approved two allocations to the home totaling $127,193. Cooper suggested that the success of the project now “rests upon the genuine interest and concern of local citizens in securing this facility for their elderly citizens.”

Sixty-six years ago, Nehemiah M. Webb published the first issue of Whitesburg’s first local newspaper — The Letcher County News. Two years later the name of the paper was changed to The Mountain Eagle. A few days, ago Mrs. Nathaniel Craft, who has read the paper since its beginning, brought in a copy of the very first Letcher County News, Volume 1, Number 1. It was a four-page tabloid, slightly smaller than today’s Mountain Eagle. The paper begins with an editorial campaign aimed at getting sidewalks in Whitesburg.


Congressman Carl D. Perkins delivered a giant Christmas present for Fleming-Neon — the last $500,000 chunk of money needed for a complete new water system for the area. The money to finish the $2.755 million project came from the federal Economic Development Administration.

The new year of 1981 will hold some grave dangers for Letcher County, according to local observers of the economy. Whitesburg Attorney Harry M. Caudill believes 1981 could be the year which determines whether small coal mines will be put out of business. Circuit Judge F. Byrd Hogg says he hopes something will be done to help the small mines hiring six to 10 men. Rep. Bill Weinberg thinks the coming year might be the time to begin looking for small industry to come to eastern Kentucky, and state Rep. Hoover Dawahare says local banks and businesses will grow and predicts the establishment of a savings and loan association in Letcher County during 1981.

The Colson Rockets 4-H Club has placed second in Kentucky for outstanding work in the Community Pride program. Members attended a banquet in Lexington to make a presentation and receive the award. The activities which won the recognition include a clean-up campaign, planting trees, helping senior citizens, and working with kindergarten pupils. The club had received state recognition for four of the nine years the program has existed.


Christmas was unusually quiet for police in eastern Kentucky this year. Kentucky State Police in Hazard reported no accidents involving serious injuries, no traffic fatalities and no major violent crimes in the five-county post area over the Christmas weekend.

Letcher County has until July 1 to prove it is making progress toward building a new jail. The jail has been operating on waivers from the state for several years and officials of the state Corrections Cabinet have said there will be no more waivers given and the jail would be reduced to a 96-hour holdover by January 1. However, the secretary of the cabinet has granted an eleventh-hour reprieve, allowing the county to keep the jail open another six months.

A bill filed for the General Assembly would prevent gas and oil companies from drilling in Kentucky without the surface owner’s permission. State Rep. Paul Mason of Whitesburg filed the bill. If passed by the General Assembly, the bill would strike the provisions of the current law that allows companies to drill before working out an agreement with surface owners.

Letcher County teachers will vote in January whether they want to help govern their schools. The Letcher County Board of Education voted to require schools to vote on school-based decision-making in January. The vote came after a committee of parents, teachers and principals completed a rough draft of a new policy, which is required under the new Kentucky Education Reform Act. Only two issues remain — whether the system’s 34 itinerate teachers would be allowed to vote in all of the schools in which they teach and whether absentee balloting would be allowed.


County officials are preparing to send documents to the state that will free up $1 million in coal severance tax money for construction of water lines in the Isom and Jeremiah areas. The money is expected to be available by January, Letcher County Judge/Executive Carroll Smith said.

The City of Whitesburg has approved a change order that will award what is essentially a $193,403 no-bid contract to A. Mays Construction Co. Inc. of Williamsburg to build sewers in Day Hollow. The company is already building sewers along Stone Avenue, but the bid for that project came in far below the amount budgeted. The city will use the remaining money to build sewers to 12 homes in Day Hollow. Rather than advertise for bids for construction in Day Hollow, the city council voted to add that project onto the contract for the Stone Avenue work.

Victor Mullins, 81, and Loretta Monroe were injured when the car which Mullins was driving struck a snowplow head-on. The accident happened just north of the Whitesburg exit on US 23. Jenkins police said the state salt truck with a snowplow attached was plowing the southbound lane on US 23 when a vehicle driven by Mullins cross the divider lane and ran into the plow. Jenkins police said truck driver Charles D. Holbrook said he saw the car coming in his lane, stopped dead in the road and tried to put the truck in reverse, but wasn’t able to begin moving again before the car hit.

“This snap of cold weather makes a person want to stay indoors and cook up a pot of chili or homemade soup,” writes Jeremiah correspondent Delana Banks, “but you also dread the electric bills that will soon be coming.”


Eighteen Letcher County residents died in 2010 from drug overdoses, Letcher County Coroner Wallace “Spanky” Bolling said. He said the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone, and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax are the main drugs involved in the overdoses.

Blackey residents attended a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District, concerned about the recent water emergency that caused many in Blackey to be without water for up to four days, and why the Blackey Water Plant was not in operation. Water Superintendent Tim Reed said the water plant has not been shut down, but is off-line for several reasons. Plant operator Richard Harr has been off work for several months due to a broken foot, and there are several maintenance and computer software issues yet to be resolved, said Reed.

A pickup truck driven by William Jones of Jeremiah, slid on an icy road into the path of an oncoming CSX freight train consisting of 100 empty coal cars. The truck collided with the train and was damaged, but Jones was not injured.

A two-story house in Jenkins caught fire on Christmas Day, but the damage was moderate according to a Jenkins firefighter. James Ballou had left the house for a short trip. He had been trying to fix a water leak and had started a fire in the fireplace after turning off the electricity. No one was living in the house.

Leave a Reply